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Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

American manufacturing supports all Americans.

Just after the 2016 presidential election, the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) released a national poll highlighting some of the common ground found among voters of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Ninety-four percent of voters surveyed said they had a favorable view of American-made goods, while 90 percent had a favorable view of American factory workers. Eighty-five percent said they supported a national manufacturing strategy.

That’s not to mention anything about the sizeable support for actual manufacturing policies, including infrastructure investment, trade enforcement and worker training programs.

At the time, we noted that what Americans of both political parties wanted was actually fairly straightforward: Good-paying, middle-class jobs. We also advised the incoming administration and Congress to make strengthening American manufacturing a priority.

Since November, the country has become even more divided. And while the Trump administration has taken on issues like trade, it also has enacted divisive policies like the executive order barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations. As AAM’s Matt McMullan wrote last week, that order did not do manufacturing any favors.

And that’s a shame, because there is still hope in the Made in America message.

The Wall Street Journal published an article this weekend looking at the ways that many American Muslims are becoming more politically active. The story, featured on page A3 of the print edition, caught our eye right away. Can you spot the reason?

Hey, those are some of AAM’s Keep it Made in America magnets!

Included in the story is a tidbit about the company American Roots, which makes apparel in Portland, Maine. Most of the stitchers at the factory are Muslim-Americans, and in August they joined the United Steelworkers union. The factory hands out the Keep it Made in America magnets as part of its promotional efforts.

Astute readers of this blog might remember that AAM’s own Jeff Bonior profiled the company in October. American Roots is the brainchild of Ben Waxman, who spent years in Washington, D.C. as a political aide but decided to return to his hometown to help revitalize manufacturing and create jobs.

Waxman told AAM that part of the challenge of starting American Roots was finding the right people, and the company worked with Goodwill Industries, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) and the Labor Department to launch a training program. Here’s more:

After two training sessions, the textile team hired eight people.

A third training program is underway and Waxman expects to have 12 to 14 top-notch stitchers who belong to the United Steelworkers (USW), North America’s largest industrial union which represents men and women in a variety of industries.

“Our workforce not only comes from south Portland but we are diversified enough to hire new Americans from Egypt, the Congo and Iraq,” Waxman said. “We are continuing to look at how to expand our workforce but it’s the greatest, hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

CEI, the nonprofit that is working with American Roots to train the workers, notes that first-generation Americans play an important role in the company:

Within the manufacturing sector in Maine, stitchers are in short supply. A training program developed by CEI and American Roots will help address this shortage, providing viable career paths for Mainers. While the program isn’t tailored specifically to them, many Mainers who arrive as immigrants and refugees have stitching experience, making this program a promising opportunity. 

Waxman knows first hand the power of a good-paying American manufacturing job. As he recounted to us back in October, his mother worked in textiles in Maine for 30 years, until unfair trade policy devastated the state’s industry.

Now American Roots is helping to bring back some of Maine’s textile manufacturing – and it is creating some good-paying union jobs, too. Some of those jobs are going to Muslim-Americans, immigrants and refugees, who have stitching experience, undertake training and are the best workers available for the job.

Here is a place for common ground.

American Roots is helping to rebuild manufacturing in Maine. In doing so, it is helping to grow the local economy. It depends on skilled labor to create its products, and some of its workers are immigrants or refugees, who come to the United States with the background needed to get the job done. If American Roots succeeds, it will be able to create even more jobs and help grow the economy even further.

This is the power of Made in America.

America is staunchly divided at the moment, and it doesn’t appear like that’s likely to change anytime soon. But it’s important to remember that most Americans want basically the same thing – a good-paying job that provides a decent life for them and their families.

The president’s misguided executive order continues to divide us. But working to enact policies that will create more middle-class manufacturing jobs for all Americans is something large majorities of all Americans support.

And that's where America’s focus should be, on the policies that support manufacturing job creation.